- Personal Finance
Creative Ways to Save Money
Family on a Budget
With today's crumbling economy, so many families like mine are on a tight budget. Costs for food, gas, clothing, and everything else are going up while income seems to be staying the same or going down. Families have to get creative to be able to pay bills much less have any money to save. So what can be done? In this article, I've discussed some ideas I've used within my family to save money and even make a little bit of money while working to stay on budget. I will say, it takes some time and effort, but it's definately worth it when the savings add up.
Ways to Save
1. The first and most obvious savings method is the use of coupons. So many companies and brands issue coupons to encourage consumers, you and me, to buy their products. Most Sunday papers include inserts such as Redplum, Smart Source, and Proctor and Gamble that are loaded with coupons for everything from bathroom tissue to cookie dough. There are also websites where coupons can be downloaded and printed out (www.coupons.com www.mysavings.com ). Coupons can be a big money saver, but many people feel they just don't have the time to put in to clipping and sorting coupons for use. An amazing resource I've found is various websites that are created for the sole purpose of posting weekly grocery deals, locating the best coupons, and teaching shoppers how to use one or more coupons per item to save (and sometimes even make) money. I use www.frugalfairhope.com because it is relatively close to where I live, but there are so many other options like couponchix.com or couponmom.com. These "how to" websites will do the work for you, listing out sales for all grocery or superstores, listing coupons that can be used with each sale, and even providing links to sites that provide coupons for various items. I've found the best thing to do is to collect Sunday paper inserts and date them, then put them in a binder. The websites will often tell you in which insert on what day each coupon is located.
2. Another type of savings website is one in which a customer earns cash back on purchases they make through the site. The one I have used is Big Crumbs. It works like this. A person signs up through the website (it's free and you don't give any personal information). Then when you want to make a purchase online through any of over 1400 stores such as Toys R US, Walmart.com, Oriental Trading Company, and many others, you go to the store website through the Big Crumbs website. Once you find the store website, everything is just as it would be if you went straight to the website, but there are often discount opportunities AND you get a percentage back on your purchases. For example, I used Oriental Trading Company to buy items for our church Fall Festival. I went through Big Crumbs and logged onto the OTC site. I spent $24.95 and got a $1.00 money back. That doesn't sound like much, but it's money back that I would not have otherwise received, AND it adds up. Also, when you refer others, you get money back when they make purchases as well. You won't get rich, but it's a money making/saving opportunity. Here's a link you can follow: http://home.bigcrumbs.com/wmd70
3. One additional type of website I've found is Groupon. This site gives a "deal of the day" which is usually at least 50% off the price of an item or service. For example, TCBY Yogurt was offering $10 worth of product for $5. I was allowed to buy two, which turned out to be $10 for $20 worth of stuff. BUT, I had referral money. This is given on the site when someone buys a deal through your link. So...I had $10 in referral money. That means I got $20 of yogurt for free. My family used the coupons to celebrate the end of the first week of school this fall.
4. There are other activities I've used to save money as well such as the following:
Books-- My children and I love to read, but it is expensive to buy books all of the time at $8-$10 for paperbacks. I have taken our used books to used book stores who in turn either give money or store credit. With store credit my children and I can find "new" books we want to read without paying out of pocket.
Consignment--Children (and adults :) outgrow clothes and need new ones. A wonderful resource for this is consignment stores and consignment sales. Consignment stores are open all of the time and take clothing, children's items, books, and other things. In return, when the items sell, they provide you with either money or store credit. This is something I looked into closely before deciding where to consign my children's items. I wanted to make the most I could for the items I took in. Some stores I contacted gave store credit up front, some gave store credit when items sold, and others gave a pay out once per month for a percentage of the amount of my items sold. There was even a difference in percentages, but the best percentage I found was a 50/50 split. So, once per month, I could go in and receive cash for 50% of the cost of my items that sold. With the cash, I could choose to buy clothing and items in the consignment store, which I did at times, or pocket the cash for use at other times. Consignment sales are seasonal sales put on by individuals or groups and only last for a weekend or a week at a time during certain times of the year, usually during season changes. A person registers as a consignor and receives a consignor number. You are then given the dates for drop off of your items. After the sale, you are sent a check for your percentage of the amount of your items sold, usually 50-70% plus a fee for advertising. This is a very good way of making some money and getting some good quality, low cost clothing and children's items, because these sales are usually well publicized, take place in a short period of time so customers can't put off buying, and checks are issued fairly quickly after the sale ends. To find one in your area, check with local consignment stores (whose owners often buy from these sales to stock their stores) or community activity websites.
Craigslist or Ebay--How many people have unwanted items just collecting dust in the back of a closet or in storage somewhere? I know I have and still do and have honestly been tired of moving things around to search for things I need. So, I went through closets, under beds, and in the kids rooms and got out many things that were just not necessary. We had a garage sale first and made about $300 for Christmas gifts (which came in handy with two children needing computers as birthday/Christmas gifts this year). Then with certain bigger things that did not sell, I took pictures and posted them on Craigslist, an online "garage sale" of sorts. I have opted to use Craigslist because it allows me to post items just in my area so I don't need to worry about arranging for shipping of items, and it's easy to use. Others opt to use Ebay because more money can be made on the same items.
There are so many other ideas for money saving opportunities. I hope to write more in the future, and I welcome comments with new suggestions.